This article uses Ridley Scott's 2001 blockbuster film Black Hawk Down to examine the claim that popular film is the “newest component of sovereignty.” While the topic of the film – the 1993 UN/US intervention in Somalia – lends itself to straightforward politicization, this article is equally interested in the film's production history and its reception by global audiences. While initial reactions to the film focused on its ideological commitments (e.g. racism, collusion between Hollywood and the Pentagon, post-September 11th patriotism), these readings continually posed an imagined “America” against “the world.” This article argues that Black Hawk Down is not about sovereignty as traditionally conceived, that is about national interest shaping global affairs. Rather, Black Hawk Down articulates, and is articulated by, a new and emerging global order that operates through inclusion, management and flexibility. Drawing on recent theoretical debates over this new logic of rule, this article illustrates how Black Hawk Down invokes much more diffuse, complex and deterritorialized categories than national sovereignty. In effect, Scott's film goes beyond traditional notions of sovereignty altogether: its production, signification and reception deconstruct simple notions of “America” and “the world” in favor of what Hardt and Negri call “Empire,” what Zizek calls “post-politics,” and what we refer to as “meta-sovereignty.”
The New Face of Global Hollywood: Black Hawk Down and the Politics of Meta-Sovereignty
DEBBIE LISLE IS A LECTURER IN POLITICS. HER RESEARCH EXAMINES THE INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND CULTURAL STUDIES. SHE HAS PUBLISHED WORK ON WAR FILMS, TRAVEL WRITING AND TOURISM.
ANDREW PEPPER IS A LECTURER IN ENGLISH. HIS CURRENT RESEARCH EXAMINES THE HISTORY OF CRIME FICTION. HE HAS PUBLISHED WORK ON CRIME FICTION, AND REPRESENTATIONS OF AMERICAN HISTORY IN FILM.
Debbie Lisle, Andrew Pepper; The New Face of Global Hollywood: Black Hawk Down and the Politics of Meta-Sovereignty. Cultural Politics 1 July 2005; 1 (2): 165–192. doi: https://doi.org/10.2752/174321905778054782
Download citation file: